Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Using the R Word

Consent is such a simple concept. Mother may I? Yes, you may. But in our culture, both in real-life and mass entertainment, the notion of consent and its importance too often blurs. So now, those blurred lines (thanks, or more like no thanks, Robin Thicke) become the norm.

Spoiler Alert: This is the part where I warn you about my intent to throwdown about the shit that went down Sunday on “Game of Thrones.” This is also your trigger warning. So, now that everyone is properly warned…

Let’s talk about how we have come to a place where we are even having a debate about whether Jaime rapes his sister Cersei in Sunday’s “Game of Thrones.” Let me go on record stating the obvious. YES, THAT WAS RAPE.

Lest you think I’m an idiot for stating said obvious, let me reference “Game of Thrones” director Alex Graves who said this of the scene in question to HitFix:

“Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle. Nobody really wanted to talk about what was going on between the two characters, so we had a rehearsal that was a blocking rehearsal. And it was very much about the earlier part with Charles (Dance) and the gentle verbal kidnapping of Cersei's last living son. Nikolaj came in and we just went through one physical progression and digression of what they went through, but also how to do it with only one hand, because it was Nikolaj. By the time you do that and you walk through it, the actors feel comfortable going home to think about it. The only other thing I did was that ordinarily, you rehearse the night before, and I wanted to rehearse that scene four days before, so that we could think about everything. And it worked out really well. That's one of my favorite scenes I've ever done.”
There’s a lot going on in his comments about the scene. But the key part is this:
“Well, it becomes consensual by the end.”
If you saw the scene in question, there can be no question that it was unequivocally NOT “consensual by the end.” And, YES, THAT WAS RAPE. But by all means let’s perpetuate the idea that any man can magically turn a “no,” into a “yes.” She may not have wanted it at first, but hubba hubba and all that fucking crap.

And then the director doubled-down on the “consensual by the end” statement by saying to Vulture:
“It’s my cut of the scene. The consensual part of it was that she wraps her legs around him, and she’s holding on to the table, clearly not to escape but to get some grounding in what’s going on. And also, the other thing that I think is clear before they hit the ground is she starts to make out with him. The big things to us that were so important, and that hopefully were not missed, is that before he rips her undergarment, she’s way into kissing him back. She’s kissing him aplenty.”
Wow, really? Because I saw a woman saying “no” repeatedly while resisting only to be told “I don’t care” what you want by the man.

Now, admittedly, I have not read the books. But I have read this particular excerpt and in the book it, indeed, is clear that while there are some protestations there is also ultimately consent from Cersei before it happens. To quote Cersei in the book:
“Hurry,” she was whispering now, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.” Her hands helped guide him. “Yes,” Cersei said as he thrust, “my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you’re home now, you’re home now, you’re home.”
Yes, the scene is still disturbing, but OK – that sounds like consent.

Compare that to what we saw on TV. This is the exact transcript of the end of their scene on TV:
Cersei: “It’s not right. It’s not right. It’s not right.”
Jaime: “I don’t care. I don’t care.”
Cersei: [Weeping noises.] Don’t. Don’t. [More weeping noises.]
Look, my intent here is not to shame this director for blurring the lines of consent. Instead it is to point out how much we have accepted that blur in our lives. Why is it so hard to just say, YES, THAT WAS RAPE?
  • A man forced himself on a woman. YES, THAT WAS RAPE.
  • The man and woman have had consensual sex in the past. Doesn’t matter, YES, THAT WAS RAPE.
  • The woman is a bitch and horrible person anyway. So what, YES, THAT WAS RAPE.
Instead we parse the particulars and make excuses and look for ways to make what we would otherwise have to view of absolutely amoral a mutual experience.

There can be scenes of rape and sexual assault on television that serve a (terrible) purpose. I am not against the depiction of all sexual violence on screen (though, perhaps we could do it a little bit less raping, eh?) But let’s be honest about what we are seeing.

Here’s the thing. When we blur the lines in entertainment, we create a world where it is easier to blur the lines in real life. This is rape culture, and it’s wrong. Am I saying “Game of Thrones” is causing people to get raped? No, don’t be silly. Am I saying continued representation of rape as something other than rape (and therefore debatable or excusable or – worst case scenario – the norm) makes us as a society more likely to allow this sort of behavior from high school football stars or world-famous fashion photographers or directors of critically acclaimed movies.

To tackle a real problem we have to speak the same language. YES, THAT WAS RAPE. It’s really that simple.


Carmen SanDiego said...

That was totally rape, I was shocked because I didn't remember it that was from the book.
And the book author, George RR Martin, is distancing himself from the director's choice


azinthesun said...

Just like in the Military where 26,000 sexual assaults occurred last year alone. In the OUR military, where "NO" means "YES". Any wonder why rape is portrayed as OK on TV.

Anonymous said...

With about 40% or more of men there is no such thing as rape.

oh wait I'm wrong, it's rape when a man bangs a man without consent.

Anonymous said...

In the book they do not have sex at all after he loses his hand. Rape or otherwise. Wondering why the show had to put that in. Oh I know why because Cersei is a strong scary woman and needs to be raped. Ridiculous and sad culture we live in.

Carmen SanDiego said...

Anonymous yes they do have sex after Jaime loses his hand.
in the sept in this same occasion, however it is consensual.

Chirper said...

I haven't reached this point in the book yet, but since I understand the series has already departed from the text on various occasions, it doesn't really matter.

That having been said, I took Cersei 's "No" to refer solely to her refusal to have sex in front of her dead son's corpse, not to the act itself. Given the history of these two characters, I wasn't surprised, shocked or otherwise.

While "Game of Thrones" has previously shown every barbarity imaginable, sexual or otherwise, in its 3+ seasons, I find it curious that your knickers are in such a twist over this scene. It wasn't done for titillation. Instead it reaffirmed what drives two very twisted individuals.

BTW, did you cry as much over Robb Stark, his wife and their unborn child? Not to mention Catelyn Stark? Or over the girls north of the wall who were raped and impregnated by their father?

Your friend, Rusty said...

I have to admit that if I hadn't read the series (I'm on my re-read now) I'd not likely watch the show after this.

It's not just a matter of "the books are better." It's a completely different experience when you're reading the various POV chapters.

There was no doubt HBO showed a rape but even the book version was barely consensual. (And the show runners disagree with the director.)

My problem with this scene is that it's one more instance of HBO version weakening a female character. TV Catelyn was dumber and Sansa is even more of a pawn. At least in the book she plotted has escape with Dontos.

I will say that Yara (Asha), Brienne, and Margaery are better in the show. And The Queen of Thorns kills it.

But seriously - read the books.

Anonymous said...

The only reason you are having a fit over this one scene of a BROTHER AND SISTER,who have at least two kids already together, having sex next to the body of THEIR DEAD SON! is because it was Lena Headey who was raped. If it was any other character you wouldn't be saying anything. Did you get offended when said dead son killed children because he didn't want anyone trying to take his crown? Also it's the middle agesish where I'm sure this thing was a regular occurrence. It's not right but it's true to the period.

Your friend, Rusty said...

/\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\
Dude, you have no idea why Snarker wrote this or why anyone who is commenting is pissed off. Nobody here is impressed by nameless trolls and their mind reading super powers. Move along.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that the only reason there has been any issue taken with this scene is that the director claims it was consensual by the end and others disagree with that because Cersei is heard saying no several times and pushing him away....had there been no commentary about the scene and it had just played out as the fiction it is, I fail to see a problem....rape happens and is depicted on tv shows....so the problem is that the director failed to call what he filmed by the correct term?? I'd also say he failed to direct the scene correctly if he intended to show consent, yes she was making out with him but she was also saying no and pushing him away....given that that is what ended up in the scene, the director should not have called it consensual...but this scene being on the show isn't a problem beyond making both characters more detestable than they already were....

e said...

Thank you for your commentary, Ms Snarker, and for calling it as you see it. I haven't seen the shows but I have read the books several times. The books are full of rape, murder, violence and tragedy. But, GRRM names it true when he writes it. In the book, this scene is not rape. I'm not going to watch the shows - the visual portrayals of violence are too graphic for me.

Anonymous said...

Words matter. This should be obvious. Everyone abhors rape, that is a given (I hope). But we should also abhor when rape is called 'consent in the end.' Because some young man or woman watched that scene and then read the comments of the director and maybe thought, 'ok, so that is consent. It is ok if I do that to someone/someone does that to me.' And that is horrible. That makes me want to cry.

Not everyone can fight to the end. Not everyone can fight from the beginning. There should be no need to fight. Saying no once should be enough.

It is an important fight. Thank you, Dorothy, for taking it on.

egghead said...

"Words matter. This should be obvious. Everyone abhors rape, that is a given (I hope). But we should also abhor when rape is called 'consent in the end.' Because some young man or woman watched that scene and then read the comments of the director and maybe thought, 'ok, so that is consent. It is ok if I do that to someone/someone does that to me.' And that is horrible. That makes me want to cry.

Not everyone can fight to the end. Not everyone can fight from the beginning. There should be no need to fight. Saying no once should be enough.

It is an important fight. Thank you, Dorothy, for taking it on."

I wholeheartedly agree with you, anonymous. Go away f'ing trolls.

I love exploring the word "consent" in our rape culture. The reason I love it is I find NO ONE knows what consent is!! S&M aficionados know all about this subject. Their ironclad rules should be studied.
Btw, I don't watch GOT, and glad of it.

OITNB, Orphan Black, DaVinci's Demons <--- enuf for me. :D

Anonymous said...

I saw the beginning of this article before seeing the episode, stopped reading (thanks for spoiler alert) and thought "Oh dorothy dont make such a big deal out of this . . .its the middle ages. . women expect this. . .in the book cersei was okay with it"

Watched the episode and came back to read the article and want to say "I was wrong Dorothy and you are spot on!".

Three big things: it was definitely rape in the show, it was definitely consensual in the book, and anyone who says she wanted it by the end is an asshole.

I hope HBO et al correct their asinine statements. They have veered from the book and that does change Cersei's character (also if you think this is rough for Cersei then buckle up kiddies!).

Anonymous said...

I don't watch the show and haven't read the books, but from the director's quote about it being consensual by the end and the rape being a turn-on for the characters, it sounds like the director is having his own rape fantasy - that women are "turned on" by rape.

Jack said...

It's a common scene in pop culture too. Dude starts off raping a chick and all the sudden she is into it and the continues with her brushing it off and loving her rapist. No wonder date rape is considered a joke by a lot of sick people.

Over all though the commentary is what disturbs me the most. I saw the scene and I saw a rape all the way through. The writers and director implying consent because of her interaction at the end or even half way through is bullshit. Fuck me if someone is held hostage and forced to participate in the crimes of their captors we don't say well they consented to rob that bank. Same with rape. She participated as means of fucking survival and to get the shit over with. The folks at Game Of Thrones are either morons or really don't give a shit about rape. I suspect both.

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.